May 13

EAST 17 – “Stay Another Day”

FT + Popular52 comments • 6,325 views

#714, 10th December 1994

Does every Beatles need a Stones? East 17’s manager Tom Watkins may have come to think so. His group poked their noses into the charts before Take That, but found themselves defined against Gary and the boys, and showed every sign of revelling in it. Take That looked back to disco; East 17 knew their way around a rave. Take That were a five-pack of flavours; East 17 moved as a crew. Take That flexed for your gaze but stayed at arms length; Tony Mortimer wrote songs about eating you out. North v south, cheeky v lairy, smooth v rough – playbook stuff, just the way the pop press like it. One effect of the division is that Take That moved onto ballad territory long before their rivals – East 17 always had a place for mid-paced bump’n’grind, but avoided the real weepies.

Until now. This is East 17 doing a slowie, and really going for it, piling on the trimmings of balladry until the song creaks. To this day it shows up on Christmas compilation albums because it’s got Christmas bells on – the clanging chimes of emotional doom. But it’s got everything else on too (except drums). Something about its shameless blowout ambition suits the season, though: all the overdriven heartbreak of a Christmas Day soap packed into five wailing minutes. By its final choruses “Stay Another Day” is piling the bells and strings and multitracked pleading chorales on like marzipan and icing, finding a space partway between Cliff Richard and Jim Steinman.

Linking it all together is Brian Harvey’s sometimes clumsy vocal. Given an Important Song to sing, he picks his way through the tune like he’s too big for it, a laddish King Kong doing his best not to hurt something frail and precious. The effect turns out to be perfect for the record – Harvey’s sad, sing-song, man-child vocals are wounded and baffled exactly when they need to be, when his character’s understanding of the situation breaks down: “Don’t understand what’s goin’ on… All that I do seems to be wrong.” It’s the same bewildered impotence Joy Division tapped in “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

So for all its ungainliness, “Stay Another Day” has soul, of a sort. Sincerity, at least. I don’t think sincerity is an automatic pass in pop music – pop for me is about making shapes other people can fit themselves into, and honest self-expression is one route to that but not the only one. But sincerity can ambush me nonetheless. At the time “Stay Another Day” came out the relationship I was in seemed to have ended – I didn’t turn to this song, but I could feel the need in it, and give it a nod of recognition. It’s messy, it’s ridiculous, and it knocked every Take That single to that point into Brian Harvey’s backwards white cap.



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  1. 1
    Tom on 1 May 2013 #

    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/nylpm/2001/12/east-17-stay-another-day/ – a previous review, which I’d forgotten I’d written, in which I say the song affected me enormously during that ’94 break-up. I’m not consciously lying now, and doubt I was then, but I was in a bit of an emo spot in 2001 as well, so it shows the shifting and provisional way we remember emotions I guess!

  2. 2
    Tom on 1 May 2013 #

    Another thing about them –


    – if you look at that picture, it’s pretty much a complete visual guide for what would become “chav” signifiers in 5-10 years. At the time it was just ‘street fashion’ I guess (surprise! I’m no expert!) but it’s also really hard to imagine a boy band now presenting themselves anything like this or even equivalent to it. So are E17 a marker of changing attitudes to the white working class?

  3. 3
    Lazarus on 1 May 2013 #

    Tony Mortimer looks rather oddly proportioned in that picture, doesn’t he … I suppose while we’re drawing comparisons with TT, Mortimer was the Gary Barlow, the songwriter, Brian Harvey the Robbie, the bad boy, the other two were presumably hired for their dancing ability, though I don’t recall them doing much. This song has stayed in the consciousness longer than any of their others I suppose – I’m struggling to remember Top 3 hit ‘Around the World’ – and has recently been done by the Doritos mariachi band. I preferred ‘If You Ever’ with Gabrielle though, the Xmas number two from two years later. They’ve recently followed Take That onto the comeback trail with considerably less success – none of their 2011-12 singles charted, in fact.

    I guess you’re relieved to have made it to the end of 1994 Tom! Have you yet managed to cover the Xmas number one at the corresponding time of year?

  4. 4
    Cumbrian on 1 May 2013 #

    #3: Re: the sleeve. “Let’s try one more time Dougal: this John Hendy is small. That John Hendy is far away.” Definitely looks like a dodgy cut and paste job in Photoshop. It also reminds me of the scene in Almost Famous where the band T-Shirts arrive and only the lead guitarist’s face can be seen. “Look, I know you’re pissed off”, “How can you tell? I’m just one of the out of focus guys?”

    I liked E17 loads more than Take That at this point to be honest – they just seemed more likely to put together a proper banger (It’s Alright, House of Love) or a decent slow jam (like Deep) than Take That were and seemed a load more interesting as a result. Because I was in early adolescence though, this was a bit of an unwelcome departure into the normal boyband arena and was thus a bit disappointing. Now, I find it to be decent enough, touching even (and definitely get Tom’s King Kong metaphor, as all the stuff I liked from E17 was, in retrospect, a bit clod-hopping).

  5. 5
    Tom on 1 May 2013 #

    #3 yes – I wrote the entry for Mud’s “Lonely This Christmas” on Christmas Eve! And frankly it caused mark inflation.

  6. 6
    Andrew Farrell on 1 May 2013 #

    #3: I understand that “Deep” and “Steam” were Formative to women I know of a certain age, but their only sizeable cultural footprint other than this is House of Love, due partly to an impassioned rubbish rap on the subject of ecology.

    In comparison, there really is literally nothing that I can recall about any of the verses of this song, but it’d still get an 8 due to having a chorus the size of the moon, scalable down to wistful crooning or up to massive ‘choral’ bellowing.

  7. 7
    Tom on 1 May 2013 #


  8. 8
    punctum on 1 May 2013 #

    If, as more than one commentator of the period had it, East 17 were in boyband terms the Stones to Take That’s Beatles, then “Stay Another Day” was their “Paint It, Black.” Deliberately more roughshod than their immaculate counterparts, they achieved great popularity without, for the larger part, conquering that benign crossover market necessary for automatic number ones. “House Of Love,” their 1992 debut, is probably still their best single; an outrageously naif Hi-NRG browbeater with Brian Harvey’s technically hopeless but endearingly earnest Walthamstow rapping tones warning of imminent apocalypse (and indeed, the single culminates in an explosion, topped off by a growling pit bull). They took to the waters of nu-R&B rather more comfortably than Take That; records like “Deep” and “Around The World,” not to mention their take on “West End Girls,” shouldn’t really work at all, but they find, by purpose or accident, their own perspective.

    However, “Stay Another Day” was their one crossover triumph; the Christmas number one for 1994, outsold that year only by the Wets and Whigfield. The group harmonised in an awkward huddle while writer and lead singer Tony Mortimer sat solemnly at the piano. On first impressions the song looks set to be a fairly standard Lionel Richie-type piano-led ballad, yet there is something in Mortimer’s vocal which goes beyond the vulnerability of a Mark Owen towards sounding defeated, and even numbed by shock. “Baby, if you’ve got to go away/Don’t think I can take the pain/Won’t you stay another day?” the group sing, in very close-knit harmony, but there are those disturbing faraway echoes of Mortimer, agonised, crying “Stay now! Stay now!” which make us think this isn’t simply about splitting up with a girl (“I’ve only just begun to know you”). “Oh, don’t leave me alone like this,” the chorus continues, “Don’t say it’s the final kiss.”

    Then the lyric becomes rather disturbing in its implications. “I touch your face while you are sleeping,” sings Mortimer, blankly, “And hold your hand/Don’t understand what’s going on…Good times we had return to haunt me.” And suddenly we remember how “I’ll Never Smile Again,” the song made famous by Sinatra twice over, was written by a woman who had just lost her husband to cancer.

    Some concern was expressed over the addition of Christmas bells to the single mix of the song, with the largely unspoken suspicion of a cynical cash-in. But when the song’s arrangement breaks open – a tremendous job from producers Phil Harding and Ian Curnow, the ex-SAW henchmen – with organs, timpani, choirs, drum crashes and the aforementioned bells (probably all Fairlight-generated, but the epic aura is sustained), as the group seem to turn in on themselves even further (no melismatics here whatsoever – a very British dignity) and turn the chorus into a forlorn prayer, it becomes clear what the song is about; as the world lights up everywhere around them, bells chiming for the season of goodwill, everyone else joining hands, Mariah messing about with someone dressed as Santa Claus at number two, Oasis defiantly declaring that they’re free to do whatever they want at number three, there is a silent reproach; how can the rest of the world dare to be happy and merry when Tony Mortimer is sitting at that hospital bedside, watching his brother on a life support machine about to be turned off, his brother who has just successfully committed suicide? Love might be all around, but in this quiet centre there lies a still, deathly blackness, and a suitably sombre ending to this perplexing year.

  9. 9
    Auntie Beryl on 1 May 2013 #

    Few men have looked as ridiculous as Terry Caldwell managed in this video.

    The suicide dimension places it in the same bracket as Bowie’s “Jump They Say”.

    I’ve fond memories of it at the time but wouldn’t want to hear this again too often: 6.

  10. 10
    Tom on 1 May 2013 #

    #9 And – in boyband precedent – Bros’ “Sister” (“she didn’t get out in time”) which is an awful record, unfortunately.

  11. 11
    chelovek na lune on 1 May 2013 #

    A surprisingly decent song, and free of the vices that plagued a lot of their ther work: overly clunky, chunky beats; lyrics that would shame 24/7 ft Captain Hollywood) even eschewing the mildly sexual stuff, “Life is worth more than gold, a soul should never be sold, a lie should never be told COS LIFE IS WORRTH MORE THAN GOLD” indeed.

    But yes, the bells, the earnestness, the sensitivity- they work.

    The reference to Bros’s “Sister” (indeed a dreadful, emotionally manipulative, record) is pertinent: it strikes me that both Bros and E17 managed to pull off having both a teen girl and male working class fan base – the sort-of macho image helping in both casrs. Which leads me to posit Take That as the latter-day Brother Beyond…

    “All Around The World” I liked very much at the time too: but that and this apart not sure they were otherwise of note…

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    fivelongdays on 1 May 2013 #

    #8 – never knew that about this song.

    This is a somewhat interesting one. East 17 were more edgy and street than Take That, and as a result, one suspects, had more boys into them than any boy band I can think of. This is their Big Powerful Ballad (with added sleigh bells!) but, compared to the far-superior ‘House of Love’ ‘Around The World’ and ‘Steam’, feels like their sole appearance in Popular is a Special Award For Services To Boybandom.

    Still, it’s not bad, and when I do hear it on the radio (which seems to be Christmas) it makes me smile.

    Six for me.

  13. 13
    lonepilgrim on 1 May 2013 #

    to my ears the song has a refreshing sense of dignity which is not always a quality I associate with boy band ballads. Musically it reminds me of a Canon (like the Pachabel one The Farm used for ‘All Together Now’) which adds to the sombre mood and also steers it away from the more manipulative power ballad tropes.

    slightly off topic but the latest episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ (Series 3 Ep. 21) features a wonderfully sympathetic yet hilarious portrayal of boy band fandom

  14. 14
    Auntie Beryl on 1 May 2013 #

    No mention as yet of “It’s Alright”, which as a recording is sonically nipples-deep in 1993 but one I could still listen to today – and indeed do when wine takes me*.

    The intro and first verse are where East 17 first deployed the ballad format, before the chorus and bosh o’clock.

    (* My YouTube suggestions are quite something.)

  15. 15
    thefatgit on 1 May 2013 #

    “House Of Love” was a terrific record, and East 17 were a terrific boy band. Well maybe terrific at the time, but I can only recall this and their debut as lasting memories.

    SAD (great acronym for Christmas) was almost the kind of song to usurp FTONY as the definitive alt-Crimbo staple. It boils down to them saying “all I want for Xmas is not to get dumped”, which must be a familiar feeling for many. This one felt as though the boys were fumbling and shifting uncomfortably within the song’s framework, but that sort of worked in their favour, considering the subject matter. It crops up every Xmas, and to be fair I wouldn’t want to hear it any other time. I’m struggling to remember how “Steam” goes. “Deep”? “Let It Rain”? Sorry Guv! I’ve been to sleep since then.

  16. 16
    Chelovek na lune on 1 May 2013 #

    Good God, the video for “Gold” is more embarrassing than the lyrics – which are more embarrassing, throughout, than the bit I’d remembered. They are dressed with gold angels’ wings!

    “Deep” has some even more cringe-making lyrics likewise, although I’m not sure whether “Close your eyes and while I fiddle you can fantasize” is necessarily, objectively, overall, worse than….well, any of the lyrics in “Gold”. I seem to recall “Steam” was basically “Deep” Part II.

    And #14 I think that the opening section of “It’s Alright” is, actually, rather lovely..and it’s not a bad single, overall, either, even if it doesn’t entirely live up to the opening promise.

    I’d quite forgotten about the “posing with dogs to look hard” thing that they did.

  17. 17
    Billy Hicks on 1 May 2013 #

    I don’t know what it is about (very) late 1994 to early 1995, but there are an *incredible* amount of good songs being released – to the point where the next Now That’s What I Call Music album (Now 30) is one of my favourites, collecting the majority of them although criminally missing out Let Me Be Your Fantasy.

    The top end of the Christmas 1994 chart contains two of my favourite songs ever, although they’re only at #2 and #3. ‘Whatever’ is a 6 minute triumph from a band ending the year critically acclaimed stars and will end 1995 as world-conquering giants. The breezily delivered optimistic lyrics, the rock/orchestral mishmash working beautifully together instead of a slightly forced All A(Bunny) The (Bunny) style, and the best ending to any top 10 single since The JAMs’ It’s Grim Up North four years earlier. And then there’s Mariah. Ok, in the last decade it’s been overplayed and to many it’s become (or always was) oversentimental tosh. But, to me, it’s one of only two absolute certified Christmas classics released after, ooh, 1987? For the other we must wait until 2003, and would you believe it that peaked at bloody #2 as well.

    But although East 17’s contribution is my least favourite of the three it’s still pretty spectacular, if not quite the 10 Mariah or Oasis would have got from me. A potential 8 that’s *just* pushed into a 9 by the sleighbells and general orchestral awesomeness in the last minute or so – in fact the ending really is astonshingly good. ‘House of Love’ and ‘It’s Alright’ were great too although the latter – as previously said – is sonically lacking and really needs a better 4/4 pounding beat over the top to elevate it into true brilliance.

    It’s a strong ending to a musically mixed year, and I’m much looking forward to 1995 as it’s the best in ages, probably since 1991. Indeed it may be one of my favourite musical years ever…1996 is stronger still, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves ;)

  18. 18
    wichita lineman on 2 May 2013 #

    I’m astonished to discover that East 17 carried on having hits right through the 90s, including a no.2 with Each Time in late ’98. Seeing as no one has mentioned it yet I’m guessing I’m not alone in having no memory of it.

    It’s Alright is a corker, using and improving on HOL’s blueprint. And SAD is very hard to dislike, for all the reasons mentioned above.

    Was it too big a hit? An albatross no.1? When Take That finally got to no.1 with their ninth single, Pray, it made them toppermost of the poppermost regulars. East 17 also released eight singles before reaching no.1 but (in spite of the chart stats) it feels like their career wilted immediately after this.

  19. 19
    Mark G on 2 May 2013 #

    There’s a lot of Pop Acts that had a fair quantity of hits (five to ten, let’s say) but history has it that they are remembered for only one, and often it’s not even the biggest one. Ant&Dec, Peter Andre, and so on (reissues discounted)

  20. 20
    JLucas on 2 May 2013 #

    It’s Alright was given an unexpected makeover by none other than Kim Wilde in 2011 as the lead single from her ‘Snapshots’ album. A quirky choice for her, but it rather works.


  21. 21
    JLucas on 2 May 2013 #

    …and of course this song was given a fairly rote reading by early Girls Aloud as the B-side to Sound of the Underground.

  22. 22
    Rory on 2 May 2013 #

    I thought this would be another of the long string of 1990s boy-band number ones that I knew nothing about because I wasn’t in the UK at the time, but it turns out that I’ve been tricked, TRICKED into knowing it by Fred Deakin (ex-Lemon Jelly), who included a remix on his recent “Frank Eddie” album. I much prefer that remix, though; this original feels a bit ponderous.

  23. 23
    anto on 2 May 2013 #

    It’s strange that this is the only East 17 song we’ll be encountering. If they were around nowadays they’re the sort of band/act who would be back at number one every few weeks. I’m not a fan of band or the song which I suppose was the single of theirs most likely to top the chart and sustain our memory of them even if it’s actually rather untypical of their output.

  24. 24
    Kat but logged out innit on 2 May 2013 #

    For some ‘unknown’ reason East 17 got a lot of coverage in Just Seventeen magazine so I knew their back catalogue and favourite sandwiches etc very well at the time, but was never really a fan – while I wasn’t anti-boyband at this point I was definitely not a MEGA FAN OMG, not like [redacted] who carved the ‘TT’ symbol into the back of her hand with a compass in Chemistry or like [different redacted] who queued overnight in a tent outside wherever the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party was (Wembley?) to get a good spot for EYC (EYC-ya!). Anyway, East 17 were from London and were hard, so blatantly better than Take That in my book. It was only when Krishnan Guru Muphy told us on Newsround that Brian liked DRUGS better than a cup of tea that it all went downhill really.

    Speaking of the SHPWP here is ‘Stay Another Day’ introduced by no less than DEAN CAIN of Superman Returns fame (ooo a firm Saturday night of mine with Teri Hatcher doing judo moves on the bad guys), where the boys are sat on a seasonally-appropriate… beach hut set?

    My East 17 top 10:
    1. House of Love
    2. Let It Rain (LOVE! – this is a total banger and sounds like something off Force 1 Techno)
    3. Deep (rest upon my chest)
    4. It’s Alriiii-iiii-iieee-iiight, it’s really alright
    5. Steam (outside it’s raining but inside it’s WET)
    6. Around The World (and there’s no place like ho-ome, ooo baby – nice nod to Lisa Stansfield)
    7. Stay Another Day (solid but heard it one too many times)
    8. Thunder (get past the overlong drumming intro and there’s a good chorus)
    9. West End Girls (ok but pointless)
    10. Gold (really is early funny stuff)

  25. 25
    Tom on 2 May 2013 #

    Let It Rain is “Nation against nation like planets they collide” yes?

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    Kat but logged out innit on 2 May 2013 #

    Yep! It’s amazing.

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    Tom on 2 May 2013 #

    Another one for the great E17 lyrics folder that.

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    Mark G on 2 May 2013 #

    Gold is that “life .. is worth more than Gold”, etc, innit?

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    John on 2 May 2013 #

    The strange thing about East 17’s multiple comeback attempts is that they usually feature either Brian or Tony but not both. It’s a bit like one of those farmer/chicken/boat puzzles. You need 3 out of 4 to use the b(r)and name, but two of them can’t stand each other. Hence the “other two”, usually seen as worthless, secretly hold all the power.

  30. 30
    Billy Hicks on 2 May 2013 #

    29 – See also their essential replacements (who we’ll see here yearly from 1999-2001), who’ll reform with either J or Sean but not both of them.

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